A gallbladder surgeon specializes in the diagnosis, removal, and repair of the gallbladder and surrounding organs and tissues. Gallbladder surgeons also perform many tasks performed by surgeons from all disciplines, including research, instruction, and consultation. A gallbladder surgeon typically undergoes extensive education and training before being licensed to practice gallbladder surgery.
Specific duties of a gallbladder surgeon often include consulting with patients and other physicians regarding pre- and post-operative issues related to gallbladder removal or repair. A gallbladder surgeon provides diagnoses by reading diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These surgeons usually remove gallbladders when the stones cause pain or the gallbladder has become nonviable or cancerous. They often repair the bile ducts, which lead in and out of the gallbladder to the liver and small intestine.
Some gallbladder surgeons teach other doctors how to do surgery. Surgical doctors often conduct clinical trials and write articles for publication. They also make presentations on surgical techniques at medical conferences or at university hospitals.
Like other physicians, gallbladder surgeons may study premed for their bachelor’s degree and then earn a medical degree from a four-year medical institution. After this eight-year course of study, a doctor-in-training for gallbladder surgery typically serves as an intern and then a resident at a hospital for six to eight years.
The gallbladder is part of the gastrointestinal system. A small sac located below the liver stores yellow fluid called bile produced by the liver and carried to the gallbladder by the bile ducts. This bile aids in the digestion of food by breaking down fats. Sometimes stones form in the gallbladder, and when these stones become too numerous or too large to allow bile to flow properly into the stomach, pain usually results. Gallstones are the leading cause of gallbladder surgery, but injuries or cancer may also require removal by a gallbladder surgeon.
Surgical removal of the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. This procedure is usually performed laparoscopically. The surgeon gains access to the gallbladder through small incisions in the abdomen, then inserts a small flexible video camera into the area to guide removal of the damaged or diseased organ. In cases where scar tissue is present in the abdominal area or the gallbladder surgeon decides that the gallbladder will be difficult to detect with the video camera, the traditional method is generally used. The surgeon makes a vertical incision on the right side, extending from below the ribs to the waist; This approach is often called “open gallbladder surgery.”